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5 Keys: Lightning at Penguins, Game 5

Eyes on Pittsburgh goalie Fleury in first start since March 31

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning play Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final at Consol Energy Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2.

Here are 5 keys for Game 5: 


Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will make his first start since he sustained a concussion on March 31 against the Nashville Predators. He has been medically cleared since May 2 and has been dressing as rookie Matt Murray's backup, but his only game action was a seven-save outing in the third period of a 4-3 loss in Game 4 on Friday.

After resisting the temptation earlier in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, coach Mike Sullivan is turning to the 31-year-old Sorel, Quebec native at a pivotal juncture in the series. All eyes will be on Fleury to see if he has any rust from his long layoff.

Video: PIT@TBL, Gm4: Fleury stones Namestnikov on doorstep

"It's an important decision for a hockey team," Sullivan said. "We're trying to make the best decision that we can, that we think gives our team the best chance to win. And that's the route, or the direction, that we chose to take for this game."


The team that scored first won each of the first four games. Just as important is setting the tempo and establishing the type of game each team wants to play early. Getting a deflection goal from Ryan Callahan 27 seconds into Game 4 helped the Lightning do that, but they also continued to play well after that and didn't allow the Penguins to resume dictating play as they did in Games 2 and 3. 

"We have to play the way we know how to in terms of taking away time and space and being good on forechecks," Lightning center Brian Boyle said. "We've got to put the pucks in the right spots, be on top of those guys and try to take away their time and space, not just in the D zone but all over the place. That's what we want to do with our start. It's got to be a physical effort again." 

Conversely, the Penguins would love to pick up where they left off in their three-goal third period in Game 4.  


The loss of Trevor Daley to a broken ankle is a significant one for the Penguins. The 32-year-old defenseman's puck-moving skill and skating ability are integral parts of the Penguins' transition game and he ranks second on the team in averaging 22:08 in ice time per game.

Olli Maatta is likely to get the call in Daley's place. A healthy scratch the past three games, Maatta, 21, needs to elevate his play after struggling in Game 1 of this series, and at times in the first two rounds against the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals.

"It doesn't matter what day it is, you have to be ready to play the next game," Maatta said. "You never know what's going to happen. You've just got to make sure you're ready."

Video: PIT@TBL, Gm4: Daley leaves with injury in the 2nd


After being shorthanded a total of four times in the first three games, the Penguins gave the Lightning that many power plays in the first two periods of Game 4. That included defenseman Kris Letang losing his composure and taking cross checking and roughing minors at 11:38 of the second period, which resulted in a four-minute power play. Jonathan Drouin scored during it to increase Tampa Bay's lead to 3-0.

"When we were down four minutes there and they scored, it puts it out of reach," Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz said. 

In addition, the time spent killing those penalties prevented the Penguins from getting in the flow of their four-line game, and kept Sidney Crosby (except for one penalty killing shift) and Evgeni Malkin on the bench. The Lightning also need to be better with their discipline with the Penguins 3-for-13 (23.1 percent) in the series with the man advantage.


This has been a key from the start of this series and the Penguins and Lightning continue to go as their elite defensemen play. Victor Hedman was a dominant player in Games 1 and 4, and the Lightning won both. Letang played his best while Hedman wasn't as good in Games 2 and 3, and the Penguins won those two games.

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